He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars
and calls them each by name.from Psalm 147
I am not a scientist but astronomers do seem to know quite a lot about stars. We have access to the most amazing images today – like this, of the “lobster nebula”:
But no astronomer, of course, knows everything about every star. That would require omniscience (interesting how that word “science” is there in the word “omniscience” – it means, of course, knowledge).
Likewise, we understand a lot about psychology today, and computers can probably predict our behaviour pretty well. But no computer knows everything about everyone. What about the people still to be born, for example? And what about the people who have already died? What kind of omniscience would that involve?
There is a belief about God that God both knows every person by name and every star by name. We all have “haecceity” (this-ness) – we are distinct individuals – and every single thing that has and will ever exist also has this haecceity.
One of my favourite poems captures this, beautifully, with the magical title “As kingfishers catch fire”:
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame
As tumbled over rim in roundy well
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.
I say móre: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is —
Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.Gerard Manley Hopkins
“What I do is me – for that I came” is one of the most striking lines. We know we are each individuals as well as members of the human race.
And if God exists (and I believe he both exists and loves), then I think God would have the omniscience that a scientist or a computer might aspire to, and would know each and every star, and each and every one of us, “stars” in our own life stories!